What's involved in having a mole removed?
September 25, 2007 2:41 PM   Subscribe

What's involved in having a mole removed by a dermatologist?

I have a large mole on lower abdomen, to the right about 6 inches and down a bit from my belly button. It's considerably bigger than a pencil eraser (it's actually about the size of 2 or 3 erasers squashed together). I've had it looked at by several doctors over the years (including a dermatologist) and they all agree I don't need to worry about it unless it changes. I've had it my entire life, and to be honest, I kind of like it - it's a part of me. But I'm getting really annoyed with it constantly getting caught on stuff (underwear, pants, etc) and i'm debating having it removed. I'm planning on making an appointment with the dermatologist who looked at it a year ago, who said she'd remove it whenever I wanted. (It'll cost about $150, which is okay with me.) That being said, I've been through several unrelated medical procedures recently that were definitely not pleasant, and I can't believe I'm volunteering for more. Plus, I'm still a big chicken. How much will it hurt? What can I expect? Is there usually a lot of scarring? Mefites, please tell me your experiences in getting your moles removed!
posted by cgg to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I had a smaller one in a similar location removed a few years ago and it took a very long time to heal and I had to go back a few times (unscheduled) to make sure that it was actually healing and not festering. And now I have a fairly raised scar that I don't really like. I liked the mole much better. But when my mole was removed (I watched) the doctor just sliced it out, and didn't put any stitches or anything in to help it close. At one of the follow up visits with a different doc, it was suggested that there should have been some stitches or something to have closed it, but it was too late.
posted by sulaine at 2:44 PM on September 25, 2007

Laser removal of small, flat facial moles feels like being sprinkled with stray oil after putting something wet in a wokful of oil. Consistently, and on the same spot. I imagine a larger spot would hurt a little more.

One of my friends had a mole between her eye and nose removed a few years back. It was about the size of a papaya seed - literally. Raised and all. I believe she had hers sliced off or something, instead of it being lasered off. After the procedure, she said the fear and anticipation before the procedure by far eclipsed the actual procedure ... which was over before she knew it.
posted by Xere at 2:47 PM on September 25, 2007

I had a mole removed from my wrist (about 1-2 pencil erasers in size). It wasn't a big deal at all. The dermatologist numbed the area with lidocaine, which numbs pretty much instantly, and then cut it out with a scalpel. I didn't feel anything and I don't remember any crazy pain after the lidocaine wore off. I have a funky scar that has a healed a good deal over time (it's been 3-4 years), but is still visible somewhat.
posted by disaster77 at 2:51 PM on September 25, 2007

I had one removed on my back this year for the same reason (kept getting caught on my bra and I was sick of it). I was injected with painkillers at the site, and the doctor sliced it off with a regular old razor blade. I didn't need stitches. I had to keep it covered for a while and it did hurt but more in that annoying hurt and the "ow I forgot that I shouldn't have scratched THAT particular itchy spot" thing. It took about a month before I stopped noticing it and it's still a little red (I had this done 7 months ago, I think). But no mole and that's all I wanted.
posted by agregoli at 2:52 PM on September 25, 2007

I am a big chicken and had a mole removed from my chest. I got a prescription for embla desensitizing cream before the procedure. I felt absolutely nothing.
posted by pluckysparrow at 2:55 PM on September 25, 2007

I had one on my face looked at for melanoma. It turned out to be fine, so they just cut it off level with the rest of the skin like others here described so it was less prominent. No fuss, no problems, only local anesthetic. Years later it has become a tiny bit raised again compared to the surrounding skin, but still not like it was.
posted by slow graffiti at 2:58 PM on September 25, 2007

I had a non-symmetrical mole about 1/4" around and slightly raised removed from the middle of my back. They used a local anesthetic, so all I really felt during the procedure was the initial prick of the needle for numbing. It was then cut out and sutured shut with two stitches.

There was some slight pain after the anesthetic wore off - but it was more akin to just having a scratch/cut, nothing too bad. I just kept a band aid over it for several days so my shirts wouldn't catch on it. Since yours is located where it is, it may get a bit irritated from the movement of clothing - although keeping it covered and padded may help.

I have a small scar that's maybe half the size of the original mole and raised slightly. Although I'd rather live with that scar than a potentially cancerous mole (the biopsy of my mole came back negative).
posted by JibberJabber at 2:58 PM on September 25, 2007

Had about 8 smallish moles (your size and tinier) removed from my back -- anaesthetized, burned, snipped and then covered with band-aids. No noticeable pain, in and out quickly. Nothing for you to worry about.
posted by diastematic at 3:02 PM on September 25, 2007

I had a mole taken off my back, around the bra strap area, cut out under local with about six stitches. It felt a bit like a burn afterwards, but nothing outrageously painful. You'll be fine!
posted by poissonrouge at 3:07 PM on September 25, 2007

I had a large-ish mole on my hip sliced off about 2.5 years ago. It didn't really hurt but the scar still looks pretty nasty. It could be they did a crappy job, but my skin scars easily too. It's a relief though not to have to worry about it catching on anything.
posted by 8k at 3:08 PM on September 25, 2007

Can I hijack? I have one on my scalp (maybe a little bigger than a pencil eraser) that I've thought of having removed, but... hair? Any extra grossness on scalps? Will I look freakish while it heals?
posted by bassjump at 4:00 PM on September 25, 2007

i had 5 moles removed on my stomach and back, and one on my leg, it didn't hurt much. They shot anasthetic in to the area of each mole, then cut it off! The healing wasn't bad either, I don't remember much about the healing so thats probably good.
posted by gavtaylor at 4:10 PM on September 25, 2007

I'm a huge wuss, and I've had tons of moles removed with no pain at all. The needle they use to inject the anesthesia is so tiny you barely even feel it. Totally worth the peace of mind to have it off of you.
posted by elquien at 4:42 PM on September 25, 2007

I've had a bunch removed - including from rather awkward places: armpit, bottom of foot, etc. Just had another one on my back off - all were no big deal. Don't worry about it a bit, just do it!
posted by blaneyphoto at 4:44 PM on September 25, 2007

I've had two moles removed by different doctors and different methods.

In 1989, a dermatologist removed a small raised mole (half the size of a pencil eraser) via the local anaesthetic injection/snip it off technique. No pain except for the prick of a needle, and I don't remember any real soreness afterwards. The wee scar faded pretty quickly.

In 1990, a university GP refused to send me to a dermatologist for a larger raised mole in a much more visible spot that had been bleeding, so I reluctantly agreed that he should remove it so it could be biopsied. He applied a local, used a scalpel to make an eye shaped incision, then stitched it up. It didn't hurt during the process, but it did create a huge, raised, pink scar that lasted for years. It's now the same colour as the rest of my skin, and somewhat flatter, but still visible.

So, I'd advise seeing a real dermatologist, asking to see some before and afters if possible, and investing in some of those silicone scar reduction products (e.g. Neosporin.
posted by maudlin at 4:51 PM on September 25, 2007

I had a mole removed from my back several years ago. It needed to be biopsied, so I assume the procedure may be different if you're having it removed for cosmetic or other reasons. I was given a local anesthetic that involved very thin needles delivering an electric shock to the region (if anyone can tell me what this is called, I'm curious about it). The doctor removed a eye-shaped chunk of my back and sewed it up. I currently have a large, raised scar in the shape of a football. There was essentially no pain, certainly not during the procedure, and negligible discomfort afterwards. I would definitely talk to a dermatologist about minimizing the scarring, if that's a concern of yours.
posted by dreadpiratesully at 8:46 PM on September 25, 2007

I had one removed above my ear, around 1 1/2 pencil erasers big. It was an out-patient deal in the hospital. Doctor gave me a local, cut it out and stitched me up. It didn't hurt but I wanted to scratch it so bad. It was a couple years ago and I can never find it when I look, but I can find it with my fingers. Don't scratch and you'll be fine.
posted by sgrass at 9:10 PM on September 25, 2007

dreadpiratesully: iontophoresis is method of using mild electric shock (though via electrodes, not needles as far as I know) to drive lidocaine deeper into the skin than the typical surface application would.

pluckysparrow: though it is pronounced like "embla", EMLA is basically a lidocaine cream.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:47 PM on September 25, 2007

I have a lot of experience with mole removal. If you are having it excised, all you will feel after the initial mild burn of the anesthetic is a sort of pulling sensation as the mole is cut off and the stitches are put in place. It is really not painful at all, especially if you relax the area as it is being anesthetized--a 3 out of 10 on my pain scale, maaaaybe, if you're really sensitive and it's particularly painful.

Scarring will depend on a whole bunch of factors, including your age, the doctor, the location of the mole on your body, and your post-operative activity and care. You can control a bunch of these things. I've had some moles in more visible areas (like my face) removed by really good plastic surgeons; this will most likely cost you more but will definitely minimize scarring if you find the right person. The mole you're describing sounds (very) large; expect a large scar. One doctor I went to recommended massaging the wound with cocoa butter post-op to minimize the appearance of the scar.

I definitely applaud your inclination to get it removed, and think you cannot be too proactive when it comes to this.
posted by holympus at 8:41 PM on September 26, 2007

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